Flexible Solutions for E-Commerce Logistics

Consumers have long come to expect immediate availability of products and express delivery to their front door. If an online retailer cannot deliver the desired product quickly, consumers can simply order from another supplier that meets their requirements. These expectations put the highest demands on e-commerce companies’ logistics and increase competition among online retailers. This makes a company’s delivery capability a decisive competitive factor when it comes to its longterm survival in the market. Custom logistics solutions help successfully master these challenges. But what would an intelligent and, above all, expandable concept for handling e-commerce orders look like in reality?

A practical degree of automation for the market requirements of tomorrow

Each customer faces specific challenges, so each logistics concept must be considered individually. Yet, a strategic approach is similar: The foundation is concept development, which is based on comprehensive data analysis in terms of throughput requirements, number of SKUs, SKU and order structure and order types. Combined with the customer’s business plan, the analysis results determine the framework conditions for practical intralogistics. The material low outlined below is an example of what a solution-based approach might look like for a system with average performance.

Storage systems for maximum delivery capacity

After incoming goods inspection, there are two options for storage: Forklift-operated pallet warehouse for large load carriers and bulky stored goods or fully automated miniloads. Items that are usually delivered in large quantities sorted on pallets are stored in a manual high-bay warehouse, which can be either a narrow or wide-aisle warehouse. Depending on type manual block
warehouses and pallet warehouses are good solutions for buffering bulky items. The narrow aisle pallet warehouses provide the highest storage capacities even with limited, narrow storage space and are ideal if space is restricted. Items delivered in smaller quantities on mixed pallets or in cartons as well as supply pallets pass through the decanting area, where they are sorted at ergonomic work stations for buffering in the miniload. Depending on the requirements, containers, cartons or trays are stored there in a dynamic and space-saving manner. Conveyors connect the systems to goods-to-person or person-to-goods work stations or robots in the order picking area where items are made available for order assembly.

Custom, ergonomic picking concepts

Due to performance fluctuations over the course of the year or day and the difficulty of predicting future demand, online retailers need modular and flexible solutions that are tailored to their needs. In particular, the picking area must simultaneously cover different demand intensities, from seasonal (Christmas, Easter, Black Friday, etc.) and daily order peaks to average daily business. The latter determines the degree of automation of the handling concept based on the required performance. Goods-to-person solutions with a medium degree of automation for handling the standard day-to-day business are a suitable basis in this case: Picking items from the miniload is performed at ergonomic work stations. Alternatively, robots either support or completely have taken over the process. Depending on the required performance, storage and retrieval machines as well as single- or multi-level shuttles perform fully automated storage and retrieval tasks. Thus, the core business is reliably handled. 

An investment in this technology is rarely worthwhile for seasonal peaks only. Which is why person-to-goods solutions are usually employed to cover seasonal peaks and to pick bulky items. Order pickers manually take items from live storage shelving systems as well as directly from sorted pallets to assemble a single delivery. Pallets and containers can be stored and removed in live storage shelving systems either manually or fully automated. The differentiation and consideration of systemic performance requirements of different demand intensities reduce the total investment overall. Depending on the specific needs and required throughput, the individual solution modules can be integrated and combined to different degrees of automation, so the goods leave the distribution center on time. So, full automation is not always the most economical solution.

An expandable, sustainable, and modular intralogistics system 

Overall, logistics solutions must be individually scalable and adaptable to short-term business developments. This flexibility, as well as the challenges of digitization, speak to step-by-step project realization. Finally, a relationship built on trust with an experienced intralogistics partner plays a significant role in long-term planning and the financial security of a project. This is where the experts from SSI SCHAEFER come in. They work out a custom concept for each customer in detail. The starting point is not individual products but the sensible composition, the right solution and an economical pace of installation. The result is a sustainable and expandable intralogistics
system in line with the company’s guiding principle: Think Tomorrow